Comment: Government home ownership schemes irrelevant in London

Help to Buy and similar schemes don't help Londoners afford housing

Help to Buy and similar schemes don't help Londoners afford housing - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

A website launched alongside the new Housing Bill to help people find out which government schemes are available to help them on their path to home ownership.

A brief questionnaire asks for very general details about income, current housing situation and whether or not I’ve ever owned a home.

Having filled in my answers, I was amazed to discover that there were seven schemes suited to people like me (privately renting, non banker salaried, ‘aspiring’ first time buyer). However, the site neglects to ask for one crucial detail: my location.

Exploring further it becomes clear that none of the schemes will help anyone who wants to live in London.

When I input my budget and then my location, the Self Build Portal confronts me with a series of negative emojis, from a red sad face to a double thumbs downs (not just one, this is really not going to happen).

The Help to Buy scheme is capped at £450,000 but the average home in London has reached £522,000.

The 20 per cent discounts offered by the Help to Buy equity loan and the forthcoming Starter Homes scheme won’t even scratch the surface of the difference between affordability for those on average salaries and the market rate. The £15,000 you could save with a Help to Buy ISA would be a decent deposit in many parts of the country, but in London the average first time buyer needs a deposit of £74,000.

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And that’s not to mention the upward pressure on house prices resulting from this emphasis on home ownership. There is plentiful evidence to suggest that by increasing demand for property without a concurrent increase in supply and a stabilisation of the rental market, the Government has inflated house prices significantly.

An enforced new building regime is promised but unless new, genuinely affordable homes are built in expensive areas close to jobs, there’ll be very few people in a situation to buy them. I wonder, for example, just who will be snapping up property at a new development on the outskirts of Redruth in Cornwall, one of the most deprived areas of the UK, with little infrastructure, few jobs and a high street riddled with charity shops.

Short of the relocation of thousands of jobs to areas like these, there will continue to be a serious imbalance between demand for housing in London and availability in the rest of the country.

Perhaps Parliament should relocate to Redruth, taking politicans, political correspondents and attendant population with them. The Palace of Westminster would make perfectly serviceable affordable riverside flats for those of us who remain in London.